New faces join Nats amid injuries

VIERA, Fla. – The Nats clubhouse became the site of an informal meet-and-greet Tuesday morning, as two new players joined the team.

Outfielder Matt den Dekker unpacked his gear from a Mets travel bag, while he got ready to play against, oddly, the Mets.

“It’s been a whirlwind kind of emotions and excitement to be over here,” he said shortly after arriving.

Den Dekker picked up his first Major League hit and home run at Nationals Park, so it has already been a special place to him.

“I can see the passion from the fans, and it was probably one of my favorite places to play,” he says.

For fellow outfielder Reed Johnson, going to Washington was his choice.

“Well, I’m a Washington Redskins fan,” he said, laughing.

He does, in fact, cheer for the Burgundy and Gold, but that wasn’t the motivating factor.

“Just where they’ve gone and how deep they’ve gone into the playoffs, it was important for me to be part of an organization that had a chance to win,” Johnson says. “When you’re a veteran player at the end of your career, that becomes even more important,” he says.

Johnson mentioned to Jayson Werth, with whom he’d played in the minors more than a decade ago, how awesome it would be to get a ring before their careers end. He believes the Nationals organization is close to accomplishing that.

The new additions come to a clubhouse with several uncertainties, due to injuries. Werth, recovering from shoulder surgery, got in his first live action Monday.

“If I had a month left, I’d be right where I needed to be,” he said dryly. “But I got five days. We’ll see.”

He didn’t have pain during his at-bats.

“Four days ago we were stil wondering if I was going to have the strength to swing my bat,” he says. “It’s coming quick, just don’t know how quick.”

He described his minor league at-bats Monday as feeling like the first day of Spring Training.

Meanwhile, Anthony Rendon — another everyday starter out with an injury — left for Colorado to see a third specialist about his knee. A second opinion Monday confirmed he has a sprained medial collateral ligament. While the team hasn’t said definitively, his availability for Opening Day appears doubtful.

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